I love it when I meet someone who listens. Not the polite smile and the taught tension that result from someone who is merely enduring your speech while they are thinking about what they are going to say next in the conversation. Not the horrific manners of the person who cuts you off mid-sentence without a qualm of conscience. A true listener seeks to understand. A true listener patiently treasures a person by digging with questions. A true listener loves.
Every child who skips through the doors of Hope House wants us to listen to them. Each one is a new and beautiful mystery. What will they turn out to be? Their upturned and smiling faces are expectant. They want us to listen to their stories and comment on their day, their birthday, their school, their friendships. If we wait, build trust, and affirm how special they are, we will witness surprises and miracles.
Such a surprise was mine last Thursday, when one of our long time students at Read Around the Block leaped up the stairs and rushed me. His face was lit with a huge grin, and even better, a PROUD grin. “Ms. Joy, Ms. Joy,” he panted, “I wrote a story and I want to read it to everyone!” I nearly crowed with pride myself. I was so happy because all of us have been pouring into this child, and have wished him joy for so long, and now we see his joy, and it gives me a giddy and quivery feeling in my stomach. These are some reasons for my happiness:
- He wrote the story outside of Read Around the Block
- He knew we would be proud of him and his story at Hope House
- He trusted that he would be able to read the story aloud to all of us
- He knew we valued him and his story and that he would receive encouragement and praise for his accomplishment.
- He knew that we would want to LISTEN to him
Only God can do something so wonderful through us, patiently showing His love in our faces day after day, through our words and body language, even when we are holding a child in our arms who is having a raging tantrum. He gives us grace and the child, who can see through masks, can feel it. We not only give, but receive for ourselves the understanding that, to God, we are like this child. Zephaniah 3:17 “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Joy Ferguson (Read Around the Block Director)